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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (‘missed matches,’ Sugar Ray Leonard, Artur Beterbiev)

Kessler traveled to Wales to battle Joe Calzaghe.
20
Apr

MISSED MATCHES

Hi Doug,

Long time reader of the mailbag over the years but my interest in boxing as a whole, due to politics, ebbs and flows. Although maturity has helped me realise, it won’t change and just enjoy the fights that do get made.

The Mayweather & Pac Man saga of taking years to finally come together far too late lost me for a few years.



However, after reading the Kostya Tszyu (Hatton became my idol after watching that fight as a young boy) Best I Faced, and a few of your comments on Twitter regarding missed opportunities for fights (Mayweather vs Tszyu at 140), I’d like to ask which are the real missed matchups over the years for whatever reason (not important now anyway). I’d also like to know how they’d play out.

For example, obvious ones from Hatton:

Junior Witter, Cotto

But what are some of the real missed matchups for say:

Mayweather

Calzaghe

Any others you think are pertinent.

Also, Edwin Valero (RIP). Although not quite the same, but who would you have expected him to end up in the ring with? I was a massive fan after your recommendation years ago. Regards. – Martin (UK) 

Edwin Valero

Valero’s missed matches are easy to identify. He was the WBA 130-pound beltholder from August 2006 through 2008, and then he won the WBC lightweight title in April 2009 and held it until the infamous murder/suicide in April 2010 (yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of his death). Marco Antonio Barrera was still 130-pound champ when Valero won the WBA belt, so that’s a natural matchup. Marquez won the WBC 130-pound title from Barrera in 2007, so that’s another natural showdown, which also could have taken place at lightweight in late 2009 or early 2010. Also, Pacquiao and Morales engaged in their junior lightweight trilogy from early 2005 to late 2006, so those two warriors were perfect rivals for Valero. My God, I can’t even imagine anything more glorious than the V-nom vs. El Terrible and the Pac-Monster. Of course, I favor Valero to beat them all by late stoppage in epic battles of attrition. Don’t @ me, fanboys! I felt this way when Valero was alive, I still believe this, and I have my reasons.

With Mayweather, there’s a couple fights at 130, 135, 140 and 147 I wish we could have seen. I’ll only list the fighters that I know wanted to face him at the time they occupied the same weight classes, so never mind Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto, who either said “no” to Floyd directly (Sugar Shane at 135) or swerved him via Top Rank (Cotto at 140).

At junior lightweight, I would have liked to see Mayweather face either Acelino Freitas, right after “Popo” unified WBO and WBA 130-pound titles vs. Joel Casamayor, or the Cuban southpaw, before jumping to 135 pounds to challenge Jose Luis Castillo.

At lightweight, I wanted to see him take on the woefully underrated Stevie Johnston and Casamayor (both of whom competed on even terms with Castillo).

What would have happened had Floyd Mayweather challenged 140-pound king Kostya Tszyu in the early to mid-2000s? Photo from The Ring archive

At junior welterweight, I wanted him to challenge “The King” of the division, Kostya Tszyu, and then the successor to the throne, Ricky Hatton (shortly after the pub kid beat the future hall of famer).

At welterweight, I wanted to see what would happen vs. the seemingly invulnerable pressure-fighting, volume-punching machine that was prime Antonio Margarito.

Had Mayweather fought these standouts I think he’d reign supreme at 130, winning clear decision(s) in good fights, struggle at 135 but ultimately earn decision victories, lose at 140 vs. Tszyu (UD or late TKO), struggle with the peak version of Hatton but pull out a controversial points win, and either be soundly outpointed by Margz or stopped late by the relentless Mexican.

I don’t think Calzaghe “ducked” anybody during his 10-year 168-pound title reign (1997-2007), but it was generally undistinguished until the final two years when he unified major belts vs. Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler. I don’t blame Joe too much for that because the major titleholders were generally undistinguished during the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and he did eventually fight some of the guys who held the belts, such as Charles Brewer, Richie Woodhall and Byron Mitchell, but he did so after they lost their titles. The one current titleholder he could have faced that would have been a big event in Europe (but probably a crappy fight) was Sven Ottke, who held the IBF title as long as Joe held the WBO belt and also won the WBA trinket (and like the Welshman, the German star retired unbeaten).

Some British fans claim that Calzaghe swerved Carl Froch, but I don’t agree. Froch was a late bloomer that wasn’t taken seriously on either side of the pond until his involvement with the Super Six tournament from late 2009-2011, and his upset title-regaining effort vs. Lucian Bute in 2012 – years after Calzaghe had retired.

Anyway, I think Calzaghe would’ve soundly outpointed Ottke, even in Germany.

Thanks for the interesting question, Martin, and thanks for reading the mailbag column all these years.

 

APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING

Hi Dougie,
Thanks to your and the writers at The Ring for all your efforts to entertain us during this quarantine. You are all putting in extra effort and it is greatly appreciated. I hope you and your family are staying healthy.

I’m watching Ali vs Frazier 1 on ESPN, and it’s an incredible fight. I am pretty sure I watched this fight with my dad live, but I was only 7 at the time so I’m not sure if I’m imagining that. The Thrilla in Manilla gets a lot of hype but this Fight of the Century was incredible. I don’t know if heavyweights nowadays take that kind of punishment and keep coming. Ali and Frazier brought out the best in each other. Frazier would not be denied that night.

It reminds me that years ago at a Hall of Fame weekend in Canastota I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Frazier. He was very friendly, but what struck me the most was that he was much smaller than I thought he would be. I am an average sized guy, about 5’10”, and I swear Joe was no taller than me. His upper body was small, but his legs looked very large and powerful. I can’t imagine him fighting a modern day giant like Tyson Fury.

Another legend I met that weekend was Marvin Hagler. He seemed tiny! I would be surprised if he was 5’8″. I’m sure he was a compact ball of muscle, but I imagined he would be much larger.

One fighter who appeared much bigger than I expected was Alexis Arguello. He was quite tall, and I’d guess he looked bulkier than he actually was because he was wearing a suit.

Anyway, after all this rambling nonsense, my question to you sir is, what fighters have you met who made an impression on you either because they were much bigger or smaller than you expected? Or what fighters did you meet whose appearance in person was not what you expected based on seeing them on television?

Thanks again for all you do, and stay healthy. – Karl

Will do, Karl. Thanks for the kind words about The Ring/RingTV.com’s staff and contributors. We’re all doing the best we can to produce pertinent information and compelling reading enjoyment for boxing fans while the sport – and everything else – is on hold, so we appreciate your appreciation.

Dougie’s a bit taller than Sugar Ray Leonard, but his boxing hero’s got the bigger head.

I’m always surprised at how much smaller most fighters are in person compared to how they look on TV and how they look live and up close when bravely practicing their fierce martial art. They’re all giants in the ring. They’re all kind of short with big heads outside the ring. Whenever I take a photo with a fighter, the first thing I notice is that I’m either taller than they are (despite many of them being listed as taller than 5-foot-9) or that

Dougie’s taller than the great Chavez, but who’s cabeza es mas grande?

they’re not that much taller than me; the second thing that always catches my attention is how damn big their heads are.

Maybe I just have small (or skinny) head.

The only fighters who seemed even bigger in person than they appear on TV or in the ring were the Klitschko brothers. My goodness, they’re giants. I remember when Vitali Klitschko was about to defend his recently regained WBC title against a then-undefeated Chris Arreola in Los Angeles in September 2009. I was thinking about ordering the “upset special” and picking the tough and talented underachiever from Riverside, but when I attended a media workout for Klitschko I was reminded how big and athletic Big Bro was. As much as I wanted Chris to win, I couldn’t fathom it against an awkward, mobile, technical behemoth like Dr. Iron Fist. After the fight, I had to interview both fighters in the ring HBO’s international broadcast. While Vitali was doing interviews for both domestic HBO and German television, I was standing behind him with an audio assistant and we were completely hidden by the giant.

I’m watching Ali vs Frazier 1 on ESPN, and it’s an incredible fight. Arguably the greatest heavyweight championship fight in history.

I am pretty sure I watched this fight with my dad live, but I was only 7 at the time so I’m not sure if I’m imagining that. That how I feel about Ali vs. Shavers. I’m pretty sure I watched it live with my dad, but I was also 7, so who knows? Maybe my dad watched it and then told me about it later. LOL.

Frazier (right) pursues Ali. Photo from The Ring archive

The Thrilla in Manilla gets a lot of hype but this Fight of the Century was incredible. The energy and punch output they put forth for 15 rounds would have been extraordinary for WELTERWEIGHTS, to say nothing of the punishment they withstood. To fight like that weighing more than 200 pounds is inhuman… it’s superhuman.

I don’t know if heavyweights nowadays take that kind of punishment and keep coming. They don’t, because they can’t, and I don’t expect them to.

Ali and Frazier brought out the best in each other. Frazier would not be denied that night. That smokin’ 205-pound version of Frazier would have given any heavyweight in history a run for his money.

 

RING SUBSCRIPTION

Hey Dougie,

If I order 12 issues with online access today for the $40, do I get the Four Kings special you created? Thanks. – Dan Grabowski

Sorry, Dan, but the Four Kings Special Edition began mailing out to subscribers on April 10. That ship has sailed. However, you can order a copy from The Ring’s eCatalog by clicking SHOP on the RingTV menu (or just follow this link.)

If you subscribe now, the first Ring magazine you’ll receive in the mail is the July issue (with a Richard Slone-painted Mike Tyson-Tyson Fury mythical clash on the cover), followed by Gatti-Ward and Mike Tyson special editions. Do it! It’s worth it.

 

SUGAR RAY LEONARD AND MYTHICAL MATCHUPS

Hi Dougie,

I know you are a big fan of Sugar Ray Leonard, but does his inactivity hurt him when comparing his to other all-time greats?

He first won the title in 1979, then went 10-3-1 over the next 17 years, with long periods of not fighting in that time. What do you think?

I have also read that he had intended to fight aggressively against Hagler, hoping to stop him on cuts. But changed his mind after getting rocked badly in sparring. Do you know if that is true? If he did choose to fight that way, what do you think the outcome would be?

A few mythical matchups.

In shape Tony Tubbs vs Tua

Joe Louis vs Michael Moorer

Roy Jones vs Chris Byrd at H/W

Nino Valdes vs Frans Botha

Gerrie Coetzee vs Oscar Bonavena

Thanks mate. – Will

I gotta go with Tubbs by close but unanimous decision, Louis by mid-rounds KO, Byrd by close but unanimous decision, Valdes by decision in a competitive fight, and Bonavena by unanimous decision.

I know you are a big fan of Sugar Ray Leonard, but does his inactivity hurt him when comparing his to other all-time greats? Only when his legacy is weighed against the legends of the 1930s and 1940s who had close to or more than 200 pro bouts, like Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep and Archie Moore, but even against those gods of the ring, my boyhood idol can hold his own.

Wilfred Benitez (left) and Sugar Ray Leonard fight action. Photo / Ring-Getty collection

He first won the title in 1979, then went 10-3-1 over the next 17 years, with long periods of not fighting in that time. What do you think? I think Leonard is about QUALITY, not QUANTITY. He fought five Ring-rated welterweights in ’79 before dethroning a fellow future hall of famer (an arguably an ATG) in Wilfred Benitez. In those next 14 bouts, he faced Roberto Duran three times, Thomas Hearns twice, Marvin Hagler, Terry Norris and Hector Camacho – all ATGs or HOFers.

One way I’ve been able to pick out modern greats on par with the legends of the Golden Age that fought so much more than boxers of recent eras/decades is to see if they had a three year run that could qualify them for the hall of fame. In other words, they did more in 36 months than some of fighters in the hall of fame did with their entire careers.

Leonard qualifies with his run from 1979 to ’81 – which included victories over Benitez, Duran and Hearns (Ring’s 1981 Fight of the Year), as well as third-division title win vs. undefeated Ayub Kalule and impressive KOs of top contenders Pete Ranzany and Andy Price.

Manny Pacquiao qualifies with his run from 2008-2010 – which included (in order) victories over Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito; and world titles at 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds.

Joe Frazier, who only fought 37 pro bouts, qualifies with his run from 1969 to ’71, which encompassed just FIVE bouts, including a seventh-round stoppage of Jerry Quarry (Ring’s ’69 Fight of the Year), KOs of Jimmy Ellis and Bob Foster, and an epic 15-round decision over Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Year and “The Fight of the Century.”

Now THAT’s quality over quantity! ’Nuff said!

I have also read that (Leonard) had intended to fight aggressively against Hagler, hoping to stop him on cuts. But changed his mind after getting rocked badly in sparring. Do you know if that is true? That is true. Leonard and many members of his training and management teams have supported that story on record. The young man that rocked him in sparring was future WBC middleweight titleholder Quincy Taylor.

If he did choose to fight that way, what do you think the outcome would be? I think he would have had greater early success vs. Hagler than he did employing the stick-and-move-and-showboat game plan, but gradually, his aggression would play to the strengths and heavier hands of the middleweight champ, who would have grinded him down to a late stoppage.

 

YOU’VE BEEN A BETERBIEV DENIER

I remember emailing you about old Artur in about 2016 and you thought he’d be dinner for all the other light heavies.

Just say he isn’t xxx – Robert

I’m not sure what you mean by “xxx,” but I assure you, I don’t think Beterbiev is a porn star.

Look, I recognized then, as I do now, that he’s a major f__king badass, but at the start of 2016, he had NINE pro bouts, and he didn’t look like a world beater vs. Alexander Johnson (his final bout of 2015). I know he had the scalps of former titleholders Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo on his resume, but both veterans were shop worn by the time he got to them. Campillo had a lot of hard rounds under his belt (sadly jobbed in hard distance fights he should have won vs. Shumenov and Cloud) and was post-Sergey Kovalev, who “Krushed” him. Cloud had his confidence taken by Oldman Hopkins and his soul snatched by prime Adonis Stevenson immediately prior to stepping into the ring with Beterbiev. I could only give him so much credit for those victories.

Beterbiev is a beast (and definitely not a porn star)

Given his amateur background, physical strength and technique, he had to be considered a hot prospect, but he still didn’t prove that he was world level with his two bouts in 2016. To his credit he’s now THE top light heavyweight and a unified champ with just 15 pro bouts. He proved he’s the man vs. Gvozdyk. However, I hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t think the man is unbeatable.

I’m looking forward to Artur justifying his Ring pound-for-pound ranking by taking on fellow undefeated titleholder Dmitry Bivol (who might be a porn star), Elieder Alvarez (definitely a porn star, he goes by “Crazy Eyes”) and maybe one or two of the super middleweight standouts.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him and Coach Schwartz and friends on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

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